This year we are living in the beating heart of the Edinburgh Festival, on the Royal Mile itself. If you haven't been to the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Mile is what you will have seen montages of on the telly. An endless cacophony of singing, drumming, shouting, strumming, fire-breathing, hula-hooping, banner-waving, self-promoting, whirling desperation. That lot out there do shut up for a few hours between about 3am and 9am, but the rest of the time the racket goes on.
We'll talk you through some of the main types of Royal Mile performers.
Decent ones earn a fortune on the Royal Mile in August. And why not? They're more talented than most of the nonsense you can pay to see indoors.
Professional Street Performers
Knife jugglers, fire-breathers, and that sort of thing, who have mastered an often dangerous skill and travel the world justly showing it off. They know how to gather a crowd, create suspense, deploy broad humour, and elicit handsome cash payments for a five minute performance. A lot of Americans see a couple of these, get back on a coach and think they've done the Edinburgh Fringe.
Physical Theatre Drama Students
Our favourite ones last year were a little troupe who did a piece called 'Virginity'. Two young men and two young women and two sets of pyjamas. The blokes wore the pyjama bottoms and the girls wore the pyjama tops then they'll all flounced around in the rain occasionally shouting, 'Hymen!' It was very good.
You get a couple of these self-painted standing still people doing it for cash, like you see all year round in capital cities the world over. But up the Mile during the Fringe, you also get quite a few flyerers experimenting with the standing still holding out a flyer until someone takes it approach. Never works, but they keep trying it. There's a girl down there at the moment in a coffin, pretending to be dead but holding a flyer. Naturally, no one's interested.
Fusion Musicians and Dancers
Quite often involves a lot of drumming which seriously disturbs our pre-show naps. There's one group who play a funky saxophone riff on a loop whilst a feller spins on his back and a couple of girls do a ceilidh. The looped riff is only about 8 seconds long, which is pretty irritating for us, but they play it all day long so goodness only knows how they retain their youthful spark.
All-Male Vocal Choirs
Like 80% of people on the Royal Mile calling attention to themselves by shouting, these boys are from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge or occasionally Durham. It is unfortunate that people find this sort of thing entertaining. They keep singing, 'We're on at 2.40pm' in a close harmony. Presumably at 2.40pm, they go indoors and sing something else for an hour.
Free Fringe Comedians
This lot do things like walking around with their trousers round their ankles or wearing a dodgy home-made costume. There's a couple dressed as fried eggs out there at the moment, and a bloke in a brown thing that might be a profiterole or a chocolate muffin, but could easily be a turd. He hasn't got many takers for his flyers currently.
These little Dickensian urchins are in their nature very quiet so don't bother us so much.
Community Support Officers
This is the one time of the year when they get to blend in nicely in their hi-vis jackets and dour faces.
Bob and Jim: Two Stars is on at 8:00pm every day at the Underbelly Cowgate until 25 August.
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